Virginia B. Wood grooves to smooth yet rocking Austin restaurant scene.
Rockin' Good News!
The 2003 Gourmet restaurant issue is on the stands just now. Editor Ruth Reichl emphasizes the fact that chefs are the new rock stars and that dining out is our new form of theatre with a cover photo of celebrity chefs rocking out with assorted kitchen paraphernalia. At least one of the rocking chefs pictured does have his own band. Dean Fearing is frontman of the Barbed Wires and executive chef of the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. In the issue's pullout guide to "America's Best Restaurants," Austin is very well represented by the Driskill Grill, Wink, Hoover's Cooking, Las Manitas, John Mueller's Barbecue, and the Roaring Fork. Longtime Austin favorite Ruby's Barbecue gets its own write-up elsewhere in the magazine. I'd call that rockin' good news all around!... If the stack of recreational cooking-school brochures on my desk is any indication, there's also a new local trend toward taking cooking classes at dinner time rather than going out to restaurants. The Friday and Saturday night classes at Central Market have long been a date-night tradition, but now couples and singles are lining up to study everything from the "Amazing Egg" to "Garlic Mania" to "Fresh Fish" or "Perfect Cheesecakes" at several other local venues. Classes are scheduled in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate busy schedules, and prices range from $35 to $95, with most of them falling in the $40-55 range. Not bad for an evening (or afternoon) out with good food, a glass of wine, and recipes to boot. Check out the Web sites and brochures of the following new programs: Gina's Kitchen & Supper Club (1305-D Lorrain, 236-0705, www.ginaskitchen.com), where passionate home cooks and caterers Gina Burchenal and Sheila Fleming offer classes in the demonstration kitchen under sheltering oaks in Burchenal's West Austin back yard. Occasional guest chefs also offer classes, and the monthly supper club provides the opportunity to learn some new dishes and enjoy wine (bring your own) in a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere; in addition to operating two restaurants run completely by students, the Texas Culinary Academy (11400 Burnet Rd., 837-2665 x111, www.austincooks.com) has also opened their campus to the public for recreational cooking classes. The classes are taught by TCA staff chef-instructors and visiting teachers. Classes are scheduled on weeknights and weekend days and cover everything from knife skills to soufflés, pork magic to pasta, and dinner to impress your date; former Central Market Cooking School chef Roger Mollett is offering cooking classes at four locations: Grape Vine Market (7938 Great Northern Blvd., 323-5900, www.grapevinemarket.com), Williams-Sonoma (9722 Great Hills Trail, 338-4080), the Texas Culinary Academy, as well as Zoo LaLa Cooking School (309 Main St. in Marble Falls, 830/798-0161). Through his own company, Fonds de Cuisine (374-0355, firstname.lastname@example.org), chef Mollett is available for private instruction, custom party catering, and culinary tours.
As always, October is packed with great outdoor food events. Learn more about how to cook globally, grow locally at the fifth annual Green Corn Project fundraiser this Sunday afternoon, Oct. 12, from noon to 5pm, at Boggy Creek Farm (3414 Lyons Rd., 926-4650). GCP assists folks in Central Texas with growing organic home-good gardens, and this annual party helps to fund their worthwhile efforts. There will be chef demonstrations featuring Jean-Luc Salles, Foo Swasdee, Andrew Bell, and David Ansel and live music provided by Kimmie Rhodes and Joe Gracey, the Mundi Ensemble, and the Austin Pub Crawlers. More than 20 area restaurants and caterers will provide tasty food samples. Tickets are $25 in advance ($30 at the gate) and can be purchased at Boggy Creek Farm, the Natural Gardener, Wheatsville Co-op, or from GCP at 249-3171. For something totally different, why not check out the Philippine-Pacific Islands Festival & Friendship Day also being held this Sunday, Oct. 12, from noon to 5pm, on the shores of Town Lake? Fiesta Gardens will be transformed into a tropical paradise where guests can experience the foods, crafts, costumes, music, and cultural expressions of the people who populate Pacific Islands from Hawaii to Tahiti to the Philippines. Admission is free, and the event is hosted by the Austin Filipino-American Association. For more information, call 443-2062.